FAA holds meetings for the public to explain paused runway extension project in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) held a pair of meetings at the Embassy Suites in Charleston on Tuesday to take questions from the public regarding the recent decision to pause a proposed extension to the runway of West Virginia International Yeager Airport.

The open-house style meetings took place from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. with several FAA representatives having discussions and answering questions of citizens who wanted to know the subjects at hand.

Among the discussion points was the reasoning behind the FAA and the Central West Virginia Regional Airport’s decision to pause the proposed Airfield, Safety, and Terminal Improvement Project EIS at Yeager Airport.

Project EIS set out to extend the runway at Yeager Airport, mainly for additional safety precautions. Instead, Following the halt of Project EIS, it was determined that Yeager Airport would instead move forward with a project to improve the terminal area. The project seeks to make the terminal better for both passengers and airport tenants.

Andrew Brooks, the environmental program manager for airports division in the FAA, said there were some operating changes within the airport that made the FAA rethink the proposed runway extension.

“The operation conditions changed at the airport,” Brooks said during the first meeting Tuesday afternoon. “Spirit (Airlines) left, Breeze (Airlines) started, and so some of the justification for the initial request went away. We looked at that, we decided we needed to pause the review of runway extension that they were being proposed.”

Along with airport’s operating changes, Project EIS faced another roadblock that may have kept it from getting off the ground.

The project’s largening of the runway would effectively remove parts of the mountain located at Coonskin Park to make way for the originally proposed 1,000-foot extension.

Jeremy Severn, a spokesperson for the citizen group called, “Save Coonskin Park,” said the mountain that would have been altered is part of his home, and that fuels his passion for showing up to meetings like these.

“You see that mountain from my front porch, so it is definitely the number one reason why I’m here and why I’ve involved myself with Save Coonskin Park,” Severn said at the meeting.

The “Save Coonskin” group has been a part of this process for quite some time now, as they accumulated at least 5,000 signatures in a petition against the project last year.

Though Project EIS has been put on the shelf, it is not guaranteed to be done with forever, as there will be a future planning phase with additional analyses relating to the runway improvements. This means changes to the proposed runway project could come in the future depending on the what the research shows.

Brooks said that there is no concrete answer on the project’s future.

“It depends on the situation,” Brooks said. “It depends on the additional planning studies that the airport is perusing. The timing of that, which I really don’t know at this point because their focus is on the terminal, depending on that outcome, there’s multiple options that could happen. We could withdraw the previous notice of intent and totally stop the project, or we could restart an entirely new process.”

Severn, who made his way around the room talking to the various FAA representatives, did not get the assurance that “Save Coonskin Park” likely seeks about the project being a thing of the past.

“I’ve had conversations now with half a dozen people, and I’ve gotten kind of a differing level of whether or not I think it will come back up,” Severn said

While the FAA has had to and will continue to have to conduct research, Brooks says they listen to all of the input from citizens.

“We do listen to their input,” Brooks said. “It has weighed in on some of the reviews that have occurred so far. It is a pretty changing process, and unfortunately, we don’t have a better message than the fact that it’s paused, but we will continue to keep folks informed as conditions change.”





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